The new anti-MOOC, or, DOCC (Distributed Open Collaborative Course) is currently in the process of rolling out to students in each of the participating institutions. From a pedagogical perspective I am interested in the format of the course, and how well received it will be by both students and the higher ed community. The DOCC has elements of a traditional MOOC, including: open enrollment, the use of video technology, and the option to take the class for credit.
According to an Inside Higher Ed interview with Anne Balsamo, DOCC co-facilitator and Dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School, “the DOCC aims to challenge MOOC thinking about the role of the instructor, about the role of money, about hierarchy, and about the value of massive…it doesn’t deliver a centralized singular syllabus to all the participants. Rather it organizes around a central topic. It recognizes that, based on deep feminist pedagogical commitments, expertise is distributed throughout all the participants in a learning activity.” In an interview provided to The Atlantic, she further critiques the scale of MOOCs, and their homogenized approach to learning. The DOCC emphasizes and embraces the communal, interpersonal aspect of learning, and how each learning environment will shape the experiences of the participants and the facilitator. Just how different the DOCC is from a traditional MOOC is debatable, and a nice post about the perceived/actual differences is provided by Leonard Waks of MOOCVILLE, where he notes “So while this course is a welcome development, it is really not much of an innovation; its just another variant of a familiar MOOC design. One question is whether smaller, more circumscribed DOCC participant groups can add something special to online distributive learning? “
The course is offered through 17 colleges, and will limit participation to around 15-30 students per institution. Each of the 10 weeks are centered around a theme with two prominent guests. These recorded guest discussions will be the jumping off point from which participating institutions can design individualized learning experiences that are aligned with the interests of participants, the specialization of the instructor, and campus/institutional learning priorities. Instructors will determine their own grading structure, rather than adopting the assigned structure of the MOOC/DOCC. A full listing of participating institutions can be seen here, along with some syllabi that have been posted. One highlight of the course is a “Wikistorming” where students are encouraged to locate profiles of prominent STEM women in Wikipedia, assess how they have or have not been portrayed in Wikipedia, and then edit entries as appropriate.
Over the coming weeks we can expect that the participants in this DOCC will likely Tweet (see #DOCC and #femtech) or otherwise share their opinion via social media about the learning experience, the perceived value, and the reality of the learning experience when compared to initial expectations. From the perspective of the instructor, I am hoping to read more self-reports on the challenges and rewards of implementing a modified MOOC template. Some questions that I have are:
1. Will students engage with students from other participating institutions in informal learning environments with the same frequency that participants in other MOOCs have engaged with one another (chat spaces/message boards)? If so, are the informal chats geographically distributed? Do students engage more/less with students from similar institutions (small liberal arts-small liberal arts, public-public, etc)?
2. Will actionable items result from the DOCC? (Example given: Will students feel that the experience warrants a follow up DOCC, or will they see other ways that the structure of the DOCC can be applied to future learning experiences/environments for other students?)
3. What are the primary challenges associated with the development and implementation of the DOCC from both the student and instructor perspective? (Were the challenges primarily technical? Were there challenges associated with the lack of cohesive learning exercises from institution to institution? Did instructors feel that there was a gap between the online video experience and their in class instruction, or did the transition flow smoothly?)
The DOCC is supported by two $10,000 grants provided by the New School and Brown University, and has received early funding from Pitzer College ($7,000). Each of the participating institutions is providing faculty and the course is hosted by FemTechNet Commons.